The Lazy Man’s Way to Building a Great PowerPoint Presentation

monster eats powerpoint presentation

As you probably know, speaking in front of a live audience is never easy. Overcoming things like stage fright is possible with enough practice, but delivering a breathtaking presentation that wows the audience isn’t easy. I personally speak at a few conferences each month and still have not come close to perfecting the art of presenting. One thing that I have learned is however that a great presentation usually involves a good communication skills and a kick ass PowerPoint.

In the past I covered presentation tips that will help with the communication aspect of presenting, but I did not really touch on creating how you should create your PowerPoint presentation. To keep that conversation going, here is a generic PowerPoint template that you can use anytime you have to give a presentation.

Anyone have other PowerPoint tips?

**RSS Subscribers: if you can’t see the PowerPoint, click here to view it.

P.S. If you want making a high converting presentation check this out.


  1. I would appear to be extremely nerdy… but is that green dude based on Piccolo? 😛

  2. Great points Neil. I’m speaking next in February and was looking for some inspiration at PubCon to improve my presentation. Yours was by far the best.

    I will be stealing verbatim your comment “…and if you don’t, you know how many are left”.

  3. “… a generic PowerPoint template that you can use anytime …”


    • I like the way you broke up the presentation by using “part 1” and “part 2”. This is a good example of how you can make your presentation flow smoothly compared to having those awkward transitions.

    • Bring your presentation on a USB flash drive and a CDROM. If it’s DVD based, ask for the PC to be tested ahead of time. Make sure you save your presentation with the viewer, not just as a stand-alone PPT file. See Powerpoint help. I’ve even started putting a backup of my presentation on Google Docs.
    • Use the restroom just before the presentation. I’ve sat through presentations where the presenter left the room and lost half the crowd.
    • Bring your own drink. The host may not think about it.
    • Turn off your cell phone. You may want to ask others to do the same.
    • Read Seth Godin’s post “The best presentation…“
    • Yes, test before time. The proportion of presentations I attend where the speaker spends a few minutes trying to figure out how to use the system (after we are all in the room) is over 50%!
      It’s embarrassing and frustrating.

  4. I think it’s important to capitalize on graphs to present information in a more consumable format.

    • Douh! I knew I was forgetting something.

    • I study perceptual psychology…one of the best color schemes, contrast-wise, is yellow lettering on a dark blue background, in case you don’t want to use black and white (which is also very good!)

      • Is there anything specific the yellow lettering causes? Like some sort of affect on the individual viewing the PowerPoint?

  5. I’ve been teaching for about 15 years. Here are a few extra points.

    *NEVER read your slide or turn your back to your audience.
    *Each slide should be design as a billboard – if you can read it within the time it would take you to drive by it – it doesn’t have too many words on it. 7-10 words.
    *NEVER use bullets. Every thought or idea is worth its own slide.
    *NEVER use built-in templates – everyone has seen them a million times and it makes your presentation look canned.
    *When speaking on a subject your slide should support you and make you look good – it should not say the same thing you are. Your audience can read so why do they need you otherwise.

    Those are just a few of my favorites.

    • The problem with not using bullets is then you may end up with too many slides. The last thing you want is a 100 slide PowerPoint.

      • I’d rather have 100 slides than 10 sides with 10 bullets each or twenty slides with 5 bullets each.

        The problem with bulleted slides is that everyone does them and everyone has seen them hundreds of times. Going with less bullets and more slides is different

        • I think 100 would seem overwhelming. Maybe there is a good middle ground with more slides and less information on each slide.

        • Since I posted my earlier comment, I’ve gone back to work as a contract instructor on a 6 month contract and am back to editing some of my old PowerPoint presentations.

          One alternative way to do the bulleted slide is to have each bullet item “dim” to a color near that of the background when you move to the next item. That way the slide is limited to the point you’re focusing on now.

        • Nice tip! I will have to try it out.

  6. Anything else, captain obvious?

  7. Here’s a better suggestion. Learn to speak, skip the powerpoint.

    • bravo, trouble is about 1/10 of 1% are capable of this (and keeping the audience engaged.)

    • The strength of a PP is that it provides visual support for what you’re selling. That’s why successful advertisers use visuals in their pitch.

      If you’re presenting on salting your password hashes, a picture of a salt shaker and hashbrowns is likely to leave a more lasting impression than a great talk and certainly better than a page full of bullet points.

      I’d also encourage anyone who has to do periodic presentations to join Toastmasters. Practice makes perfect.

  8. Man, this has got to be the lamest most patronizing advice ever.

    – First off, NEVER use a black background – if someone wants to print out your slides as a handout, they’ll use a ton of toner and get very PO’d with you

    – Second, did we just graduate primary school? What kind of advice is “minimize use of visuals”. Why not just shove a word document up there? If you’re not maximizing on the use of all PowerPoint’s features (like animation), you’re wasting everyone’s time. Just print a handout and leave.

    – Third, choose a font that ALL computers have (like Arial or Times New Roman). Who the hell uses Trebuchet MS? If someone wants to save a PDF of your file, it won’t come out properly.

    – Fourth, when considering professionalism, how about ACKNOWLEDGING all pictures used, especially this stolen from Google images or other InterNet resources.

    – Last – always bring your own laser pointer. You’d be amazed the number of places where their pointer has dead batteries. Obviously, check the batteries in yours too!

    • You make a valid point about printing black slides.

      When giving speeches at conferences the last thing you want is cheesy animation. Using them may work in school, but in business most of those extra features are not needed.

      Good point about the font, I should have used something more generic.

      You are rigtt about pictures, I should have acknowledged the source even if I modified the image.

      Depending on the type of presentation you are giving laser pointers can work well, but in most cases they are not needed.

  9. The smart man’s (or woman’s) guide to creating a Powerpoint presentation.

    (1) Delete Powerpoint. Windows, too, while you’re at it.

    (2) Cancel the meeting.

    (3) Quit the job. Go work where you can do real work.

    (4) If your baffled co-workers ring up to ask what happened, tell them you’re acting out a surrealist-Zen presentation as performance art.

    (*grinning ducking running*)

  10. As a trainer, you always want to:

    1. Tell them (the audience) what you are going to tell them
    2. Tell them
    3. Tell them what you told them
    It helps. Just my $.02

    • I think this works well in long presentations, but in short 5 or 10 minute presentations it can become too repetitive.

  11. I disagre.
    – Design your presentation primarilly as if it is to be printed out, stuck on a board (letter/A4 size) and understood if you were not there. You are trying to communicate and many times you will end up printing/emailing it. Pinning it up on a board/spreding it on a table is often much better for discussion….design it for this and you only need to make it once.
    – “Borrow” layout designs from magazines etc, these actually tend to be very simple. I have examples of magazines that the people who I present to typically read. ie: when presenting to bussines folks I “borrow” harvard bussines review’s layout/colours etc…
    – Use graphic models or labled images wherever possible..a picture tells a thousand words. Just putting lables in boxes and using arrows/sizes/colours to indicate relationships can communicate things that text never can.
    – Never use ppt animations if you audience has any sense of taste….or, make it in flash and use animations that ppt cant do at critical key points in the presentation…it drives ppt fans (marketing) crazy.
    – If you are looking for lazy tricks…you obviously are not passionate enough about what you are presenting and you have already lost your audience. Get another job.
    – If you are serious about your subject, learn a propper illustration tool such as illustrator. You can export to pdf, flash, jpeg, png etc (and put jpeg/png in to ppt if you must)

    • I like the idea of taking concepts from magazines. Magazines are usually nicely designed, simplistic, and tasteful.

      Overall, nice points!

  12. Havelock Holmes :

    Not the best advice, I’m afraid. My couple of cents…

    Use the full palette of effects, and use them tastefully, including transitions, visual metaphors for points made, builds that build understanding. *Taste required.

    Don’t use the TITLE/body page default of ppt, as this has become meaningless and nearly invisible, just as banner ads have become invisible through endless repetition.

    Do read up on Wabi-Sabi, the aesthetic of simple design this advice is attempting to channel, though I’m afraid rather ignorantly (sorry! I appreciate the effort!).

    Do study the presentations of Steve Jobs, the true master of presentations.

    (And maybe, stop using ppt. It forces you into line with its crappy design notions in exchange for all that “power.” Try Keynote to get your hands on a true blank canvas full of potential – and communicative power.)

    • Never be afriad to comment. 🙂

      You make an interesting comment about studying Steve Job’s slides. Because I did this post, I got an email from an ex Apple employee who stated:

      “Hi Neil,

      I liked your tips for better Ppoint presos. I used to work at Apple and many of those themes were ones that were used for public presentations…”

      I personally think Apple is all about simplicity when it comes to design and PowerPoints.

  13. Jay, writer :

    Hey, somebody just wrote a comment in Japanese. That should be a tough act to follow. Harhar. Anyway, I’ve come across a lot of people who get so carried away with their presentations that they put too much stuff on the slides, steering the audience away from the real message. And is it just me or does that powerpoint eater guy looks like Conan O’Brien? Hey, I’m a big fan of his show.

  14. Before retiring a year ago, I had been a professional instructor for over 23 years. I started out using transparencies and marker boards and, eventually, graduated to PowerPoint. I was one of the first users of PowerPoint in my organization.

    One problem with PowerPoint is how people use it — they overuse it — they use it as a crutch.

    Attention spans are limited. Ever heard of the phrase, “death by PowerPoint.” When you’re giving a presentation, look in the audience and see how many people in the audience are becoming glassy-eyed.

    Some of the best received presentations I’ve ever given limited the use of PowerPoint.

    In some, I reduced the slide to one idea or concept per slide. It makes for a faster pace going through the slides, but, also, the audience has to focus more on what your saying than being distracted by reading your slide. The concept doesn’t even have to be words. It can be represented by pictures.

    In many others, Power Point was only part of the presentation. Other parts included use of the marker board and group discussions.

    Occasionally, I would go PowerPointless — I would teach a class without using PowerPoint at all! Discussion and interaction with the audience took it’s place.

    • As a student, I prefer it when teachers do not use a PowerPoint. It just makes things a bit more interesting as you already know.

  15. I base my presentations after GUI’s that can be found on DVD menus, cellphones (iPhone), and even operating systems like Vista and Leopard. Makes it easier for the audience to follow.

  16. How NOT to use Powerpoint:

    • LOL, I thought you were kidding at first. That is probably the best example of what not to do.

      • I had seen that video a couple of weeks ago and thought of you. I also though of sending it to some other presenters I know, but then I decided that they (not you) would either not get it or would be insulted by it.

        It is hilarious, but oh so true.

  17. Motorcycles for sale :

    I actually like his powerpoint template. It is clean and simple which looks much better than those tacky ones with bright backgrounds and sound effects.

  18. Here’s a better suggestion. Learn to speak, skip the powerpoint.

  19. Speaking is great, but more often than not, you probably need a ppt

  20. Sport Supplement :

    Dont you think speaking will help a lot rather than a power point.

    • Speaking is a lot better than power point, but if you must use a power point, you need to do it the right way.

  21. Cool Bananas! That was pretty much the best slideshow presentation I’ve viewed in a while. Great way to convey your message, Neil! You sure do have a way of doing things. Keep it simple works for me! Thank you for sharing, mister!

  22. I’m wondering if you could answer a question for me. I’m trying to attach a PDF but it appears to be a really distorted slide. Any insight you could provide would be very much appreciated. Thanks so much!


  23. despite powerpoints presentations are important i believe cominication skills and presence are far more important, but thats just my opinion

  24. I’ve been researching some interesting facts that I think may be useful if incorporated in planing and designing a presentation.

    The most significant fact I stumbled upon in my opinion was that humans don’t actually have the ability to multitask! Instead the brain rapidly shifts back and forth from one point of focus to the other(s). This is very strenuous on the multitaskers brain. “A recent Harvard Business Review post said multitasking leads to as much as a 40% drop in productivity, increased stress, and a 10% drop in IQ (Bergman, 2010).” Also the old belief that women are indeed better at multitasking was debunked in one study stating “the only reason women are perceived as better multitaskers was do to the fact that they are more willing to try”.

    The point is if your power point is timed to overlap key messages with the speaker and competes for attention it forces the viewers attention to compete for focus. If not considerate of this you could inadvertently be raising the level of stress while lowering the ability of the audience to efficiently consider all the possibilities productively and creating a lower IQ of less 10 points across the board (apparently this is the equivalent of loosing one nights sleep!).

    That’s my two cents.

    • Kyle, thanks for the insights… very thoughtful and well presented. I will definitely need to look at this study 🙂

  25. Desentupidora em Brasilia :

    i believe cominication skills and presence are far more important, but thats just my opinion

  26. Concurseiros Federais :

    Very enlightening article, it simply opened my mind to things I did not even suspect before. thanks

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